Friday, July 30, 2010

Pops for Champagne

Who doesn't love a little champagne?  I am a firm believer that a glass of champagne makes an average day sparkle and that drinking champagne should not be reserved for NYE.

And I absolutely adore a cool, refreshing glass of champagne on a hot summer's day. On a Monday evening, I stopped into Pops for Champagne on my way home.

Generally I avoid going to Pops on the weekend because I find it to be rather touristy. But during the week, it is a wonderful place to relax, unwind, and indulge.

Over a lovely glass of Jean Vesselle Réserve champagne, I nibbled on two decadent and creamy cheeses accompanied by red pepper jam and flatbread crackers. The first cheese, recommended by the bartender, was the delectable lazy lady la petite tone- a lush, melty, and tangy goat's milk cheese from Vermont. The second cheese was the crave brothers petit frere, a creamy, slightly stinky, and earthy cow’s milk cheese from Wisconsin.

The bartender was fantastic! He was knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. We discussed our favorite cheese pairings with champagne and how Pops has evolved over the years. To be fair, the sterile ambiance isn't as inviting as it was the previous location, but the bartenders and staff are so friendly and helpful that there is an added charm and warmth to the experience.

As I sat at the bar listening to the fantastic live jazz, I temporarily escaped from my rather long day. It occurred to me that there are few places in Chicago where you can sit back and relax with live music on a weeknight. Another point for Pops!

Everything about Pops is elegant and decadent but thankfully without pretension.

Pops for Champagne
601 N State St.
Chicago, IL 60611

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Duke of Perth


A friend and I met for early evening drinks at Duke of Perth, a Scottish pub in Lincoln Park featuring some 90 single malt whiskeys. Scottish music plays lightly in the background. Black and white framed photos line the walls, along with an antique clock and a deer head wearing a police hat. Oh, and there's no TV in this pub.

We decided to order flights in order to sample more of the single malt menu: for peat's sake and roving dover. For Peat's Sake featured peaty single malts from the islands: Talisker 10, Caol Ila 12, and Laphroig 10. Roving Drover highlighted single malts from the Highland and the Lowland: Clynelish 10, Glenkinchie 12, and Caol Ila 12. 

Of these, the Talisker 10 and Glenkinchie 12 were our favorites scotches. The Talisker was complex and showed good peat with a lingering pepperiness that had a warming effect. The Glenkinchie was smooth and pleasant with intense lemon on the palate with oak. We bought found the Caol Ila to be too oily for our taste.

Duke of Perth is always packed on Wednesday and Friday for unlimited fish and chips night for $9.50. And if you are worried about having a balanced meal, don't you worry, the breaded cod and french fries come with a generous side of peas!

Duke of Perth
2913 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60657

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hot Doug's


Living in Chicago, I've been lucky to explore the cutting-edge culinary scene focused on creating sophisticated dishes from simple, locally farmed ingredients. However this haute scene coexists with another type of food obsession: deep-dish pizza, Vienna beef hot dogs with an assortment of toppings and neon green relish, and Italian beef sandwiches.

As mentioned in a previous post, I realized that I needed to round out my food experiences in Chicago with some of the iconic hometown specialties. I finally made a trip to Hot Doug's, arguably the best hot dog joint in Chicago.

On a whim, we decided to make the trek out to Avondale on a Saturday afternoon. We waited in line for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Thankfully I really like the person I was with so the wait brushed by.

Dangerously close to the 4pm closing time, we managed to get inside the door. The decor says it all: black and white checkered floor and bright yellow walls adorned with kitschy hot dog tributes. Oh, and you must check out the bathroom.

We giggled as we read the extensive, entertaining menu of "encased meat" featuring the classic Chicago hot dog and gourmet dogs with creamy sun-dried tomato mustard, spicy tapenade and tallegio cheese or sweet chili-garlic mustard and cheese-stuffed marinated hot peppers

At 4pm, a staff member walks past us to the door, saying "Watch, this is my favorite trick to play on people." He turns the lock on the door and you see jaws dropping. Laughing, he unlocks the door, and tells them how priceless their expressions were. Actually everyone who was in line was served, even though it was close to 4:40pm by the time the last person was served.

Doug Sohn, the owner, took our orders with a smile and was super friendly. We ordered the Pete Shelley (meatless... and delicious) and The Elvis (smoked and savory- just like the King) with everything.

Everything means mustard, chopped onions, florescent green relish, pickle spears, sport peppers, tomato slices, and a dash of celery salt. What a particular combination! And notice the obvious absence of ketchup.

On Friday and Saturday, you can order duck-fat fries. We opted for a small cheese fries, which was plenty for 2.

We picked up our sodas, found a seat, and waited for about 5 minutes for our food to arrive.

It was seriously the best veggie dog I have ever had. And I had my fair share of veggie dogs in college. The cheese fries were devastatingly delicious and failed to get soggy. You could actually taste the potato in the crispy fries.

Now I feel like a true Chicagoan, just in time for me to move...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wine: Nickel & Nickel Witz End Vineyard

I have yet to taste a Far Niente or Nickel & Nickel wine that I don't love.

The Far Niente Oakville Cabernet is  one of my favorites: elegant, good fruit, spiced oak, and dusty with tight tannins. In 1997 the partners of Far Niente established Nickel & Nickel to focus on producing 100 percent varietal, single-vineyard wines.

 Images from here and here

My first Nickel & Nickel wine was the Copper Streak Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from the Stags Leap District. We enjoyed it at a BYOB in the Upper West Side in NY, Telepan. It had cassis, dark fruit, and earthiness characteristic of many Napa Cabs with a slight sweetness. It was velvety and supple, with soft tannins. I was blown away by its elegance.

My brother and his wife graciously gave me the Nickel & Nickel Witz End Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from Rutherford Valley.

The nose was incredible- whiffs of cherry, pepper, and strawberries. The wine is characterized by red cherry, cassis, and dustiness lending its way to spicy but sweet oak. Round and succulent with bright acidity, but not puckering. This is the kind of wine that you will take a sip, smack your lips and say "Wow, this is incredible!" And then you will reach for the bottle wanting every last drop. Dr. G. and I certainly did.

Both Nickel and Nickel wines are $90.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Bristol

As my time in Chicago is coming to an end, I am exploring places remaining on my list and revisiting old favorites. Expect a flurry of posts on restaurants in the coming weeks.

The Bristol has been on my list for some time and after reading Chef Achatz's recommendations on where to eat in Chicago, I knew I had to go.

After having a cocktail at the Violet Hour, we headed up to The Bristol. It was super packed on a Tuesday night, but there were a couple seats available at the bar. I think sitting at the bar was probably a wise choice over the communal table as it would have been difficult to have a conversation at the latter.

I loved the daily changing chalkboard menu along the back wall. But you don't have to crane your neck or strain your eyes- you are handed the menu of the day to look over. The menu has a few regularly featured items intermixed with several dishes highlighting seasonally available ingredients: breakfast radish, snap peas, green garbanzo, stinging nettle, ramp pickle, etc.

The cocktails are grouped by estimated time to make them. For example a pisco sour takes longer to make than a Moscow mule so the time is listed as 10 minutes.

The servers were incredibly friendly and helpful. They were clearly extremely knowledgeable about food but not in a pretentious way. They seemed to really love food and wanted to share their excitement about new seasonal dishes. I would trust their recommendations.

To drink, I opted for the incredibly refreshing Moscow mule served in a traditional copper mug. I loved the ginger! I had a taste of the Pisco Sour and was instantly reminded of my travels around Peru.

We decided to start with sugar snap peas with fresh green garbanzo hummus and whipped feta with olive oil. Hello, Spring! The sugar snap peas were sweet with a delightful crunch.  How often to you get to eat green garbanzo hummus? The Spring green dip was chunky, and well seasoned with lemon and garlic.

After reading the reviews, I walked into The Bristol knowing I would order the raviolo stuffed with ricotta topped with runny egg yolk in a brown butter sauce with a hint of nutmeg. After seeing the menu I was tempted to order some of the seasonal main courses but ended up sticking with the raviolo. So glad I did.

The raviolo was dangerously delicious. The rich flavors were reminiscent of a good fettuccine alfredo. 

I also knew I had to order the monkey bread pull-apart. Served in a mini cast iron pot hot from the oven, the sea-salt topped slightly sweet monkey bread comes with a side of dill butter sauce. The server recommended serving the bread at the same time as my raviolo so that I could use the bread for dipping up the scrumptious sauce.

The monkey bread looked (and tasted) so good that the people next to us ordered it after seeing ours!

We ordered the chocolate sabayon with nutterbutters for dessert. Although I was quite full, the light and airy peanut butter cookie dipped into the cold chocolate was a perfect end to a great meal.

I wish I had made it out to The Bristol earlier. Excellent service + great food + well-crafted cocktails made for a pretty fabulous night!

The Bristol
2152 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647

Monday, July 19, 2010

Linguini Fini with Kale and Mascarpone


I imagined this summer to be the ultimate time to relax with a ton of time to do serious cooking.  Instead I have been running around in a frenzy, tying up loose ends at school, attempting to tackle my food-centric things-to-do-in-Chicago-before-I-leave list, spending time with friends, and occasionally thinking about packing and moving. And of course planning my upcoming Europe trip!

One evening I found myself actually home for dinner, so I threw together a dish that turned out pretty delicious. I had a bunch of kale and mascarpone in the fridge, so I thought to myself, "If sautéed spinach in a light cream sauce tastes good over pasta, why wouldn't kale?"

Since kale is tougher than spinach, I boiled kale for a few minutes until it was tender. I tossed the kale with a light mascarpone sauce with sautéed garlic and shallot, added a sprinkle of nutmeg, and served it over spaghetti. It was quick and turned out great. To make the dish healthier, use whole wheat spaghetti.

I am looking for other ways to incorporate more kale into my diet. I will definitely make this pasta dish again. The spicy kale chips have become a regular snack in my house. The problem with the kale chips is that they disappear so quickly!

What is your favorite kale dish?

Linguini Fini with Kale and Marscapone
1/2 lb whole wheat spaghetti
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of kale, stems and thick ribs removed, leaves chopped coarsely
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1-2 tbsp heavy cream
2 tbsp mascarpone
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
kosher salt
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add kale and boil for four minutes, until tender but still bright. Using a slotted spoon, remove kale and drain. Set aside.

In the same pot, bring water to a boil again, add kosher salt, and cook pasta until just before al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and melt butter until foamy over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot, cooking until soft, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

Add boiled kale, stirring frequently. Stir in heavy cream and mascarpone. Season with nutmeg, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for a few minutes to heat thoroughly. Add pasta and stir to coat well. Add 2 tbsp of reserved pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce, if needed. Transfer to serving bowls and top off with parmigiano reggiano. Serve immediately.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Asparagus Soup


Inspired by a soup I had at Cafe Spiaggia, discussed here, I made this delightful asparagus soup for my family when they were in town for graduation. My family loved it and best of all, it only took about 30 minutes to make so I didn't have to spend too much time tucked away in the kitchen.

I served the scrumptious soup for lunch with a bright arugula salad and crusty bread. It was fantastic!

The soup is not creamy per se, but it certainly has a richer texture from the touch of cream and mascarpone. Lemon adds a brightness and acidity. Reserving a couple asparagus tips adds a nice textural contrast and also makes for a lovely presentation.

Asparagus soup with lemon, mascarpone, and parmigiano reggiano
2 1/2 lb asparagus, woody stems snapped off and cut into 1 1/2" pieces and leaving tips long
1 large leek
1 shallot, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup 
2 tbsp butter
3 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp mascarpone
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste
parmagiano reggiano

Trim away the dark green part of the leeks. Slice lengthwise. Wash thoroughly in cold water. Be sure to open the leaves and wash all of the dirt away. Chop the white and pale green parts into 1/2 inch slices, about 1 1/4 cups. Set aside.

In a large pot, melt butter until foamy over medium heat. Add leek and shallot, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add cut asparagus, stir. Add vegetable stock and water. Bring to a boil.

After 2 minutes, remove 4 asparagus tips and plunge into an ice bath until cool. Drain, dry thoroughly with a kitchen towel, and set aside. Simmer remaining asparagus for 10-12 minutes, until asparagus is tender. Remove from heat. Let cool.

Process asparagus with cooking liquid in a blender until smooth. Strain if necessary.

Transfer liquid to the same large pot and heat on medium heat. Stir in heavy cream and mascarpone. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice, to taste.

Transfer to individual serving bowls. Using a vegetable peeler, shave parmigiano reggiano into thin slices. Halve reserved asparagus tips lengthwise. Garnish the soup with shaved parmigiano reggiano and asparagus tips. Finish with a quick grind of black pepper. Serve hot.

I had parmesan croutons on hand and added a few to the soup for a nice textural contrast.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Spicy Kale Chips


The first time I heard of kale chips was during a restaurant week dinner at Blackbird, where I had beautiful sweet potato agnolotti with saffron ricotta, crispy kale, and spicy peanuts. This dish just so happened to be the best main course I had during my epic restaurant tour during Chicago's Restaurant Week 2010.

All throughout dinner, my fabulous dinner companion over at { now craving } and I could not stop raving about the incredibly tasty crispy kale. It was salty, crunchy, slightly nutty, and broke into tiny pieces with the first bite. It was terribly addictive and crazy good... words I don't usually use to describe something that is so... healthy.

Little did we know that food bloggers have been discussing the awesomeness that is crispy kale for the past year. It is so easy to make: just toss kale leaves with olive oil and sea salt and bake at 250 for 30 minutes. 

I used curly red kale but suspect any kind would work. As I spicy variation, I decided to toss the kale with olive oil, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, and sea salt before baking. I think olive oil, lemon, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper would also be a nice combination. Or olive oil, cayenne pepper, and chat masala. Mmmm.

Spicy Kale Chips (adapted from Dan Barber at Bon Appétit)
1 bunch kale (about 1 lb), thoroughly rinsed and dried
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (use half if prefer less spice)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
sea salt

Preheat oven to 250. Remove stems and ribs and tear kale leaves into large pieces.

In a bowl, toss kale with olive oil, making sure leaves are well coated. Season with cayenne pepper, ground cumin, and salt. Spread leaves in a single layer on a large foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing once or twice, until leaves are crisp. Remove from oven and let cool. Transfer to serving bowl.

These will disappear fast. Quick, make another bunch!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana


The last few weeks before my defense felt like a race against time. Most days I was so consumed by my dissertation that that I worked through lunch, got home late, and realized I forgot to pick up groceries, yet again. Every night it came down to two options: ordering take-out or making a quick meal out of something in my mostly empty refrigerator. Take-out usually won.

But eating take-out (or worse, left-over take-out) everyday can get rather tiresome, no matter how good the restaurant. It came to the point that the thought of Thai, Indian, or pizza take out for the nth time in the past month became so unbearable, that I had to cook, even if it meant eating dinner at 10pm.

This dish is nothing fancy, but makes a quick and satisfying weeknight dinner. And I felt so much happier eating a quick homemade dinner than having take-out again. I think you will too!

Sugo all'Amatriciana is a traditional sauce from Amatrice, a town in central Italy. It has guanciale, tomatoes, red chilis, fresh parsley, pecorino romano, and parmigiano reggiano.  Sigh, I LOVE my microplane.

For those of us who shy away from bacon, guanciale is a cured meat from pig's cheek, yes, jowls. Naturally I skipped the guanciale, and next time I think I will swap it for some zucchini and yellow squash.

And, as Mario says, the key to eating pasta is to cook it al dente and leave the extra sauce behind. It leaves the dish feeling lighter and more balanced. That's right, Mario and I are on a first name basis.

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
1/2 lb spaghetti or bucatini
2 tbsp olive oil
optional 2 oz sliced guanciale or pancetta, cut into 1/2" wide strips
1/2 medium red onion, ends trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4" wide slices
 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups San Marzano tomatoes (diced)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano, freshly grated
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
2 tbsp Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a small saucepan, simmer San Marzano tomatoes in their juice until reduced by half over medium low heat.

Bring water to a boil, add 1 tbsp salt. Cook pasta until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat sauté pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil, wait for it to get hot. Add guanciale (if using), red onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 7 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, cook, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomato sauce, reduce heat to low. Season lightly with freshly ground pepper and if desired, sea salt. I find that the pecorino adds enough salt for my taste.

Remove sauté pan from heat. Transfer pasta to the pan with 2 tbsp reserved pasta water. Toss until pasta is well coated. Add additional reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in both cheeses and toss with parsley. Serve immediately.

Serves 2-3.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Piazza Pellegrini (San Francisco)


I was in San Francisco recently and met up with my dear friend, Tanvi, who recently moved to SF from Chicago. She took me to her favorite restaurant to get gnocchi: Piazza Pellegrini.

I was secretly hoping she would suggest that we meet there for dinner. You see, after four years of wonderful meals at Italian restaurants all over Chicago, she still claimed that the best gnocchi was in San Francisco.

Everything about the authentic Italian restaurant was charming. Located in North Beach, the Italian part of San Francisco, the hostess and servers spoke to us half in Italian and half in English. It was adorable. Great atmosphere and service was very attentive, even though the place was packed.

We enjoyed a great bottle of the 2005 Ferrari Carano Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner. We shared the insalate pellegrini, an arugula salad with orange and pistachios. And then came the gnocchi. I opted for the light tomato cream sauce instead of the gorgonzola cream sauce with sausage and peas.

It was pretty fantastic. As light and fluffy as pillows, almost melting in your mouth. I was in gnocchi heaven.

I will say that the best gnocchi I have ever had was at Spiaggia, the restaurant not the cafe (forthcoming post), followed by the gnocchi at Thomas Keller's Bouchon. But for a far less expensive meal, the gnocchi at Piazza Pellegrini is definitely at the top of my list. If only I lived in SF...

659 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wine: Lambert Bridge Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

Can I just say that I absolutely LOVE the combination of zinfandel and grilled anything? Something about juicy strawberry, spice, and sweet oak combined with smoky, grilled flavors is just delicious.

I picked up a bottle of the Lambert Bridge Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel at during a trip to Sonoma. After much waiting, we finally opened it thinking it would pair nicely with dinner- grilled spring onions, romesco sauce, and roasted potatoes. Success!

Keep this great wine or your favorite Zin in mind for your next summer BBQ!

A blend of 85% zinfandel and 15% petite syrah from Lambert Bridge's own Winery Ranch vineyard. Great floral and fruity nose. Strawberries, raspberry with hints of spice on the palate, but not overly jammy. Balanced with an exceedingly long finish of sweet French oak. $40 at the winery.
Image from Lambert Bridge

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rhubarb Crisp


Around this time of year, farmer's markets are abundant with piles of rhubarb and baskets of strawberry.  I asked one of the growers at Green City market about uses for rhubarb beyond strawberry and rhubarb pie and rhubarb compote. She recommended a rhubarb crisp with a touch of orange zest and juice to balance the tartness.

Intrigued, I picked up some rhubarb and found Martha Stewart's recipe for rhubarb crisp. It was delicious and easy to make! The tartness of the rhubarb was balanced by the sweet, orange flavors but overall it wasn't overwhelmingly sweet, which sometimes happens with strawberries.

Rhubarb Crisp (from Martha Stewart)
6 tbsp chilled butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing
1/2 cup plus 3/4 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats *I used 1/3 cup to create more crumble

1 lb rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, about 3 cups
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 orange, juiced
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375. Butter a shallow casserole dish, and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and oats. Using two knives, cut in chilled butter until mixture comes together into clumps, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine rhubarb, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla seeds. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch and sprinkle over rhubarb. Transfer rhubarb mixture to casserole dish and top with crumb mixture.

Bake until the rhubarb is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Serve warm.

Martha Stewart's recipe suggested splitting the filling and topping across ramekins instead of a casserole dish. If you do this, bake for 30-35 minutes. I divided the recipe in half so it serves 3-4 people.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Orecchiette with Green Garlic and Swiss Chard


I leave for my trip to France/Spain/Italy today. I am ridiculously excited! You should be excited too because I have many posts on recipes/restaurants/wine scheduled while I travel. In fact I am so behind on posting that I have 3 posts per week scheduled for July!

When traveling to a different country (actually even when I travel domestically), I make an effort to visit to a local fruit and vegetable market. I am definitely looking forward to sampling the tastes and flavors of European food markets on my trip.

During my most recent trip to India, I visited the local market near my Uncle's house. The stalls were filled with mountains of fruits and vegetables- some exotic, some familiar- and crowds of people haggling over prices, while demanding the best quality of fresh, seasonal produce.

Produce stand near my Uncle's house in India

My favorite were the heaps of fruit from jaamfal or guava, chikoo or sapodilla, and, the most delicious fruit I have ever tasted, sitafal or custard apple. Sigh, just thinking about sitaful takes me away to paradise. And in the Summer you will find the famous, life-changing Alphonso mangoes and sheradi or sugarcane.

Custard apple, bottom row, left; Guava, to its right; Sapodilla, center row, far left

Visiting the fruit and vegetable market reminded me of the stark contrast between the food I grew up eating at home and the food served in Indian restaurants in the States. Most Indian restaurants serve heavy paneer dishes and vegetables in rich gravies like bhindi (okra), aloo (potato), or gobi (cauliflower).

Dinner at home consisted of a spicy vegetable dish, hot roti, aromatic dal, and rice. Back then it was difficult to find fresh Indian produce at the local Indian grocery store. Because my parents grew up eating fresh, seasonal vegetables in India, my mom decided to grow several varieties of Indian vegetables in our backyard in Houston. Family friends would often exchange home grown vegetables, so, as children, we were exposed to a range of Indian vegetables.

Of course today you can find almost any vegetable at Indian stores in places like Devon in Chicago, Jackson Heights in Queens, Edison, NJ, parts of the Bay area, and Hillcroft in Houston.

One vegetable my parents often spoke fondly of was lilu lasan or green garlic, a Winter treat in India. They would excitedly talk about green garlic chutney, parothas stuffed with green garlic, and dals revived by the addition of fragrant green garlic. Don't you just love food obsessed cultures?

Needless to say, I was thrilled to see gorgeous bunches of green garlic at the farmer's market. Green garlic looks like a scallion but has a large bulb at the bottom. It smells garlicky but is much milder than regular garlic. And you don't have to peel cloves!

Despite the long introduction about Indian food, I did not use the green garlic to make an Indian dish. Maybe next time! Inspired by a Food & Wine recipe, I made a green garlic and spring onion white wine sauce, sautéed swiss chard and arugula, stirred in mascarpone, and tossed it all with orecchiette. It was so delicious!

Orecchiette with Green Garlic and Swiss Chard (adapted from Food & Wine)
3/4 lb orecchiette pasta
1 bunch of green garlic bulbs, thinly sliced, about 1 1/2 cups
2 spring onions, coarsely chopped
4 tbsp butter
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
5 oz bag of baby arugula
6 large Swiss chard leaves, stems and thick ribs discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mascarpone
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the green garlic: trim away the leafy greens, keeping about 1" of the lower green. Trim away the root end and remove the outer layer of the bulb if needed. Thinly slice the green garlic.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot, add 2 tbsp salt and cook orecchiette until just before al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta cooking water.

In a medium sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add chopped green garlic and spring onion, reduce heat to low, and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add white wine and cook over medium heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Puree in blender until smooth, adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Heat olive oil in sauté pan until shimmery over medium high heat. Add arugula and Swiss chard. Increase heat to high and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add pasta, green garlic sauce, and reserved pasta cooking water. Toss and cook until sauce is thick, about 3 minutes. Stir in mascarpone. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
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